Part of what makes Shad fishing so much fun is that you really don’t need to have an expensive jet boat (or any boat at all for that matter) to participate. In fact, an argument could be made that many bank fisherman often out-fish many boats on a per rod basis. This is due to the fact that Shad are known to hug the shoreline tightly in certain areas, and because Bankies also have access to some of the best producing water on the entire river.
Clackamette Park on the Willamette River is a known producer, though I suspect that it might be a bit more difficult this year with the low flows allowing fish to spread across the width of the river. Our main focus will be on the water surrounding the Bonneville Dam complex. Here, the water is channeled through a series of islands, resulting in several miles of fishable shoreline. Here is a look at some of the best areas to target:
Tanner Creek- This is an area that tends to fish best when the water line is up in the bushes. Fish will push up on to the shallow flats to escape the raging current of the channel. Depending on water height, the cast can be rather difficult as you may be standing in the bushes and trees, so a shorter rod is a good idea. I highly doubt we will see conditions this year to make Tanner worthwhile.
Robbins Island- The north side can provide good catching up near the deadline, though things can get pretty crowded here. And by “Crowded” I mean shoulder-to-shoulder. Not to mention you will be standing on a steep bank of loose rip-rap. Nevertheless, there is a reason so many people fish here.
Bradford Island- Probably the most consistent producers on the Oregon side of the Channel. The North side offers both fast paced combat style experience from the rock, up to the angling as well as a slightly more relaxed atmosphere on the lower half of the island.
Washington Shoreline- Accessed by Hwy 14, the entire shoreline from the Oak Tree up to the deadline can be very productive for Shad.
Just as with boat angling, gear used to target Shad from the bank can run a pretty broad scope. In most cases a trout rod will do, but it’s nice to have something with a little more length and backbone in case you luck yourself into a chrome slab. I like a rod designed to drift fish for Steelhead in 6-12# or 8-12# line rating. Whether to use a casting or spinning reel is up to your personal preference.
Your terminal setup is pretty much just like you would use to drift fish steelhead. Tie a 10 or 12 pound mainline to a barrel swivel with 2 to 3 feet of 8# leader and a slinky on the snap. The size of slinky will be determined by how far you need to cast, and the depth you need to achieve. I usually start with a size .270 six shot slinky and adjust up or down from there. For lures, the grub reigns supreme. Starting with a 1/32 ounce jig head in green, red, or even plain, thread on a 1” chartreuse grub and you’re in business. Other noted killers are “Shad Darts”, or a barrel swivel with a bead on top. Dick Knights and other mini-wobbler type lures catch fish as well, but given the inherent risk of hanging up on the bottom I don’t like using a $3 lure when others that cost about $.50 work just as well or better.
Angle your cast about 45 degrees upstream to begin with and let your gear drift downstream on a slow retrieve. The trick to finding fish is to stagger your sink time until you locate them consistently. For example, after your gear hits the water make a five count before you begin the retrieve. Try that a few times then if no success, go to an 8 count, and so on. Shad are very light sensitive, so as a general rule, you will find them deeper on sunny days, and shallower on cloudy days. Sometimes you will notice them biting at the very end of the drift, just before you are about to reel up, indicating the fish are close to shore. When this happens, you no longer need to launch casts out to max distance. You can simply pitch short casts right in front of your position allowing for more casts, and therefore more fish.
Good luck, and have fun out there!